Exploring Italy 3/8 – Hotels

1 – Introduction
2 – Food
3 – Hotels
4 – Public Transportation
5 – Attractions of Venice
6 – Venice
7 – Genoa
8 – Milan

Park Hyatt Milano is a top-tier Hyatt hotel, and where we did not stay

Italy lacked one thing compared to all the other countries we’ve traveled to in recent years: American hotel chains.

Except a few high-end ones in Milan and several right outside Venice, none of the hotels along our travel route was bookable with points.  This made life hard for two reasons: (1) we had to choose carefully among what fit into our budget, as opposed to finding comfort in a free-after-points $500 hotel room, (2) without a known brand name, there were more uncertainties around the physical space and service that we could expect.

Many would argue that it is a natural part of travel: experience a new kind of accommodation and hospitality when you can, as opposed to always sleeping on the same Hampton Inn mattress.  Fair enough.  It’s just that when I was single-handedly making the decision of where the six members of my family would sleep each night, I valued known comfort far more than excitement.  At the end of the day, all my picks turned out fine… even though I remained unsure about some until after we checked in.

My impression of our hotels in Italy:

  • All of them were tiny operations – with 15-25 rooms each
  • In a practice only seen in black-and-white movies, room keys had to be kept at the front desk when we went out.  It wasn’t as inconvenient as I imagined at first, because all the hotel staff knew our faces and remembered exactly which rooms we stayed in
  • All the hotels used IKEA furniture!

Here’s a run-down of where we stayed in Italy:

Milan – Hotel Mythos

Steps away from the Central Station, this was our layover spot for just one night.  It helped set our expectations low for the other hotels… the room had an awkward layout, poor lighting, and questionable cleanliness.  The plaque on each room door indicated that the hotel had been downgraded from four stars to three – curious what caused it.

Hotel Mythos bedroom

Hotel Mythos bathroom

The lobby was fairly grand, though.  And it was amusing that the front desk person (a slightly chubby, middle-aged white Italian guy with a beard) spoke perfect Mandarin.

Grand piano in the lobby


Venice – Hotel Antigo Trovatore

I felt a sense of unease as we stepped off the water bus for the first time.  The street leading to our hotel was a dark and narrow alley.  I was nervous about the upcoming judgement, silent or spoken, on my decision to put my family up in such a back alley.  It also didn’t help that our hotel entrance was such a narrow staircase, that we would have missed it if not for the restaurant downstairs of the same name.

I’m used to sidewalks wider than this street

Not a grand hotel entrance

Possibly the very first hotel in my life where we had to manually carry luggage up the stairs

Little did I know that what I perceived as a “dark and narrow” alley was actually a sizable avenue in Venice.  Additionally, quite a few very nice hotels in Venice existed in way more claustrophobic alleys in hidden locations.  Antigo Trovatore ended up being really nice – elegant, simple rooms that were clean as if the floor and furniture were brand new, great views, friendly staff, and only steps away from St. Mark’s Square.

The room felt so clean, that we let the kids sleep on the floor


Genoa – Hotel Vittoria

In Genoa, we stayed at one of the closest hotels to the Prince Plaza train station.  It was booked with the intention to minimize the distance our suitcases would have to travel, rather than to be at the center of attractions.  Honestly, though, Genoa was such a small city, that its location did not affect convenience at all.

When I first saw a picture of this hotel online, I was extremely turned off by its tiny entrance at the corner of a dead-end alley, to the side of the public transit.  Once again, it just didn’t quite work to judge Italian hotels with the American mindset.  See what I mean in the picture below:

That hotel entrance, on the left under the yellow sign, probably isn’t wide enough to be ADA compliant in America

That entrance led to an elevator, which went up to the hotel lobby.  Guests rooms were multiple steps up in an adjacent building (that orange-and-white one), requiring another elevator ride.  Getting to and from the hotel room was kind of a pain, given that neither of those elevators comfortably fit more than 2.5 people at a time.  But, hey, Genoa being a mountain city required creative use of space.  Kind of like San Francisco.

The harbor was a 5-minute walk away, but our room was easily 15 floors above the sea level.  This meant an awesome view – and some sore calves for the times we decided to take the stairs instead of the elevators.

View from our room

The room was quite spacious and clean.  The shiny marble floor was a nice touch.  The layout was a bit quirky, but we appreciated the curtains that allowed us to semi-quarantine the kids.

If you like pink walls and paintings of child labor, this room would be perfect

The bathroom was… intriguing.  Water pressure being almost nonexistent was our main complaint against this hotel.

What do you call this color?  Mint ice cream?

Good news for those who often struggle to find keys in the purse…

Pretty sure dumbbells come in lighter varieties than this key chain

Like the other Italian hotels, Hotel Vittoria required us to deposit keys with the front desk (hotel owner, in fact, was there at all hours of the day and personally handled such transactions).  They did it real old school by hanging the keys in assigned slots on the wall.

How you tell you’re in a historic city…

The hotel included a simple but good breakfast buffet, with who seemed to be the owner’s mom personally making us cups of cappuccino.  Felt like a bed-and-breakfast place.  Oh and judging from the breakfast crowd, most of the other guests were students on a field trip.

GEICO saves you money.  It’s what they do.  And Ting messes with sugar packets


Milan – Milan Royal Suites Magenta Palace

I was not pleased to find out, while in Venice, that our hotel in Milan a few days later was not actually a hotel, but instead two apartments among several that a company managed throughout the city.  Kind of like an AirBnB, I suppose, except that it was listed on Hotels.com and still charged us hotel tax.

Depending on the time of the day we wanted to check in, that email said, we needed to go to the management office 3 kilometers away on another side of the city.  Seriously?  I was pissed, until I looked at the address and recognized the office as being close to the train station.  Then, it actually worked in our favor as we were able to drop off our luggage with the management, and wait for them to be delivered a few hours later.

There was nothing “royal” or “palace” about our apartments, except for the armed guards right across the street protecting some sort of government building.

View from the main entrance to the apartment building

While I had the full intention to stay at a hotel, getting an apartment wasn’t half a bad deal.  At a minimum, we had a ton of space – bedroom, living room with a convertible sofa bed, kitchen (that nobody used), and a full hallway great for storing the stroller.

Living room


We didn’t get to stay at any Park Hyatt or InterContinental or Radisson Blu while in Italy.  The spoiled part of me regrets the missing luxury, but it was actually fun to experience the quirks of what each city had to offer.

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